Everything you need to know about BIM

Recent post from Larson O’Brien on BIM.  Available here.  Reiterates what I have posted about as well as  many other  BIM blogs but summarized extremely well.

But also reposted below.  From www.larsonobrien.com

In 2005, when building information modeling (BIM) was being introduced to the mainstream architectural community a survey by the AIA showed that 85 percent of people had never heard of it. Now, only four years later, over 75 percent of architects report to be very heavy or heavy users of BIM in their projects.  That’s a 160 percent increase in the use of BIM in only four years.

What is Driving This Change?

Innovation? Fear of irrelevance? Green building? A tough economy? It’s hard to pinpoint one driver, and each firm or adopter of BIM might have done so for a different reason. The bottom line is that BIM is here to stay and estimates put it as the primary design tool and process in as little as eight to ten more years.

What’s So Great About BIM?

The benefits may be too numerous to expand upon in length, but here are ten to start with:

1. Shortened design and development phases
2. Increased interoperability for all project team members
3. Clash detection for building systems
4. Increased ability for prefabrication off of the job site
5. Shortened construction schedule
6. Measurable ROI for users
7. Reducing time spent on contract documents
8. Integration of other software for scheduling, materials, costs, energy consumption, etc.
9. Potential for easing LEED project submittals with calculations and energy estimates
10. Use of the BIM object after design and construction

BIM is Changing the Way Everyone Does Business.

Of the above benefits, one of the most important is the interoperability of the project team; architects, engineers, contractors and owners use BIM. According to McGrawHill Construction’s SmartMarket Report(PDF): Building Information Modeling (BIM): Transforming Design and Construction to Achieve Greater Industry Productivity, published in 2008, architects are the largest users of BIM with over 43 percent using it on more than 60 percent of their projects. Estimates indicate that 43 percent of engineers will be very heavy users of BIM in 2009 (up 9 percent) and 16 percent will be heavy users (up 8 percent).

Even adoption and use by owners is expected to increase. Contractors are quickly realizing the benefits of BIM and expect to see the greatest adoption through 2009 (38 percent expect to be heavy users, up from 23 percent).

BIM for Architects

For the architect, BIM is a design tool. It allows them to show a prospective client exactly what the building will look like, rather than having to explain to them their vision. This improves communication and project expectations between the architect and client. As a design tool, BIM increases the interaction between the architect and the project team. This allows the architect, engineers, contractor and subcontractors to determine the best solution for building systems to ensure that post occupancy performance will be as close to the owner’s project requirements and calculated estimates as possible.

BIM allows the architect to change the business model, spending more time on design and reduced time on contract documents. With more time to design, architects will be able to produce more efficient and innovative designs. In the above report, architectural, structural, mechanical, plumbing and accessibility components were the most modeled elements of a building.

BIM for Engineers

For engineers, BIM allows them to work with an architect in a mutually understandable model. Even work and communication with engineers across disciplines such as civil, environmental, structural and mechanical will improve with adoption of BIM. Engineers are very detail oriented, logical and focused individuals but can be seen as unimaginative outside of their discipline. Bringing everyone together to work on a model that is representative of everyone’s interests will make charettes more productive.

BIM also has the ability to detect clashes between systems. For example, the model can detect and flag a ventilation duct that is going through a structural steel beam. Clash detection allows the engineers, contractors, subcontractors and architects to come up with a solution in the design and modeling phase, rather than on the job site.

BIM also has the ability to estimate energy efficiencies. Architects and engineers can quickly change system elements to compare how different cladding, windows, HVAC systems or building orientation will impact the anticipated energy efficiency of the building. This is a very important consideration in green building. As LEED certification becomes more difficult to achieve, accurate energy consumption estimates will be more imperative to the success of the design.

Of course, the true test is post-occupancy performance of the systems. With paper plans this is hard to estimate, with BIM, the algorithms should produce accurate estimates before the building is built.

BIM for Contractors

It could be argued that contractors can benefit most from BIM. A building modeled in BIM can tell the contractor exactly how much of each material to order, when each phase of the project can be complete, which subcontractors need to be on site which days, and if any systems will clash before they occur. This saves the contractor time on the construction phase of the project.

BIM allows for prefabrication of large components of a building to be brought to the project site. This essentially turns a construction site into an assembly site. Prefabrication saves time and material waste on the construction site.

BIM for Owners

Owners and investors who request BIM on their projects will benefit by being able to become more involved in the design and construction process. They can walk onto a job site on day 213 of construction, view the model to see what is supposed to be complete and then look at the building to make sure that the project is on time. Owners using BIM see a higher return on investment because the design and construction phases are shortened, less material is wasted, emergency re-designs are avoided with clash detection accurately done in advance and they can anticipate post-occupancy performance, maintenance and operation costs.

The aforementioned report states that 48 percent of respondents track BIM return on investment at a moderate level or above. Unmeasured estimates of ROI were between 11 and 30 percent; however, when efforts were made to measure ROI, one third reported ROI greater than 100 percent (page 3). When measuring BIM ROI, firms look at fewer RFI and field coordination problems (79 percent); better communication because of 3D visualization (79 percent); and positive impact on securing projects (66 percent).

BIM for Product Manufacturers

Many architectural product manufacturers are having their entire catalog “BIMed” so that they can remain competitive. Manufacturers recognize that BIM as a building process is becoming more common and that their products won’t be specified if they don’t offer a BIM object to put into the building model. BIM objects offered by manufacturers make the design and specification of products easier for architects designing in a BIM environment. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sweets-type BIM catalog is created in the future. If you’re a manufacturer and you don’t currently offer BIM objects, put it in your budget for 2010 and every year after that.

BIM After Design and Construction

Building models designed in BIM can be used after the design and construction phase are complete. BIM can provide ease for operation and maintenance of the building systems. It could also be used for first response rescues during emergencies such as fires or earthquakes. Rescuers will be able to view the BIM model to locate safe areas of the building to enter and exit to make their rescues easier, safer and potentially timelier.

Why Doesn’t Everyone Use BIM Already?

Good question. BIM adoption is most challenged by the people whom it would benefit most. People (architects, engineers, contractors or owners) are hesitant to adopt BIM because it seems expensive and complicated to learn and use. But investment in this technology is more of a psychological process shift than anything. Everyone involved in the design and construction community from this point forward should give BIM and the benefits associated with it some serious thought.

Change can be daunting, but investment in the future of your career is imperative to success in that field. Like former Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki said, “If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.”

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